The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Friday, April 29, 2005

Reyes Watch UPDATED

If all goes according to plan tonight, Jose Reyes of the Mets will lead off and get his 100th at bat without a walk. It is almost unfathomable, but he has not walked once in 96 at bats this year. What is equally unfathomable is that Silly Willie refuses to even consider moving him from the leadoff spot despite his OBP of .271, the worst of any regular on the team.

What's more, Reyes has not even had one count of 3 - 0 or even 3 - 1 ALL YEAR!

Two pitchers on the Mets staff have more walks than Reyes. Ich kenesht.


Reyes had 13 more at bats over the weekend and did not walk. He is up to 109 plate appearances without a walk. His batting average is .257 and his OBP is .264 (he must have been hit with a pitch this weekend). Nevertheless, he is still leading off.

David Wright, on the other hand, is now batting over .300, his OBP is .421 and his slugging average is .532. He is still batting seventh.

The better news is that at least Silly Willie is starting to understand that Mike Piazza is washed up. He finally moved him to number five in the batting order and replaced him at 4 with the Mets' hottest hitter, Cliff Floyd. Piazza should probably be 6th or 7th (or on the bench or in the American League) but at least it's a start.
Maybe I Will Finally Gain Some Weight

The press release about my new job came out a little more than 2 hours ago. My phone has not stopped ringing since and I am getting all kinds of emails. I have even heard from two people whom I haven't seen since 1991.

I will be at my current job for 15 more business days. I have already set up lunches with 8 (now 9) people so far, all important people with whom I will be dealing in my new position.

I lost 12 pounds training for last year's bike ride, and, despite not training nearly as hard since the ride, have actually lost a couple more pounds. I know this is a problem a lot of people would like to have but I have reached the point where I'm ridiculously thin and need to put on a couple of lbs.

Maybe the new job is the anwer.
Stop the Presses...

MoC gets hagbah this morning. After complaining that I (and other little people) never get hagbah, I was asked to lift the second Torah this morning. Of course, it may have had something to do with the fact that there were only 12 people in shul and I was one of the younger ones. But, in any event, it's a start.
Can't Sleep

I have been up in the middle of the night for the past three nights.

On Tuesday evening, I woke up at 3 a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep because the selection committee for my new job was meeting the following afternoon. After an arduous process that involved many, many interviews and spread out over a number of months, it was coming down to the wire. I was wired.

On Wednesday night, I woke up at 4 a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep because I was so excited. I couldn't stop thinking about the challenges that lay ahead. On Thursday I was going to sign the offer letter and give notice to my current employer. I was really wired.

Tonight, I woke up at 3 again. I tried mightily to get back to sleep, to no avail. Too many things racing through my head. I go public in the morning and the day will be crazy.

This is highly unusual for me. Although I am normally an early riser, I usually have no problem sleeping, no matter what is on my mind, and I usually have no problem getting back to sleep even if I wake up in the middle of the night.
(A long time ago, when MHW woke me up at 1 a.m. to tell me that she was starting more serious labor with our first born, I told her to wake me up when it was time to go to the hospital; I rolled over and slept like a baby).

I must be getting old. What am I going to do when I stop blogging?

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Still Wonderin' Nails It

MoC at the Crossroads II

Last night I accepted an offer for a job that will dramatically change my day to day existence. It is a really great job, and while related to what I have been doing for the past 19 years, my responsibilities and functions will be completely different. It will be a very difficult and challenging job.

On the other hand, once I start, continuing this blog will be very problematic. I will be very much in the public eye in my new job and it would be highly irresponsible of me to keep blogging.

This may not be so bad. I almost stopped last summer for lack of fresh ideas to write about. I decided to come back and I think I've had a few important posts in that time (along with a lot of drivel). On the other hand, I always worry that I have overstayed my welcome.

Now, I don't think I have a choice.
MoC At the Crossroads

Big news coming down later today. No time now. I will post it later today.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Nice Seder Posts

Here and here and here.

I can relate.
Quiz for Silly Willie

A. One batter is batting .267 with an on base percentage (OBP) of .267. The other batter is batting .358 with an OBP of .485.

Which one should be batting eighth?

B. One batter is batting .262 with an OBP of .328. After a slow start, the other batter has raised his average to .270 with an OBP of .395.

Which one should be batting second?

C. Men on first and second, no one out, down by three runs in the first inning. Your big power hitter for whom you've paid zillions of dollars lays down a bunt. (The batter following him is batting .200 and has failed to drive in 16 of the last 17 men in scoring position). The bunt succeeds.

Was it a good idea or not?

D. Men on first and second, no one out, score tied in the second inning. Your number two hitter, an exceptional bunter, tries to bunt towards third for a base hit (figuring the worst that can happen is a sacrifice). The bunt goes to the pitcher who forces the runner at third.

Was it a good idea or not?
Four Thousand Questions

B'H, our seders were, once again, very beautiful. They were small, with only the immediate family, including for the first time (for the first seder) our daughter-in-law and grandson )not yet ready for ma-nishtanah). Our only 'guest' was Fosterboy.

Fosterboy stays with us three weekends out of four and he was with us for the first days of Pesach. I calculated that in his eleven Pesachs, he has been at no fewer than 8 different seders. This was his second with us.

As the youngest he got to ask the four questions but he did not stop there. He asked questions about the seder all night with an energy that is hard to comprehend.

Dealing with his questions was not easy but our kids handled it with great humor and patience. They were great.

Every day, not just at the seder, Fosterboy has so many questions about so many things. We have so many questions about him. But we have no answers.
Hagbah Discrimination

Being small, the son of small people, and the father of small people, I have observed that small people do not often get called for hagbah (the ceremonial lifting the Torah after the completion of the reading of the Torah).

This came to mind on Shabbos when our younger son was called for gelilah (the wrapping of the Torah after it is lifted). OYS is roughly my height and weight.

I asked him at lunch how many times, in the three years that he has been bar mitzvah, has he been called for hagbah. His answer: zero.

I asked our older son how many times, in the 8 years that he has been bar mitzvah, has he been called for hagbah. His answer: Fewer than 10 times. I thought about my own experience. I have been bar mitzvah for 37 years. I doubt that I have been called for hagbah more than 20 times in all those years.

Although we are small, OYS, OOS and I are all in very good shape, work out regularly and are quite strong for our sizes. Nevertheless, we rarely, if ever, see a hagbah come our way.

I am considering starting a protest movement.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Staying Home for Pesach

Bat Sheva Marcus has an interesting article on staying home for Pesach.

She writes:

I worry that what is being lost by this generation will be lost for future generations as well. If you have never seen your parents making Pesach, if the lore of the holiday is that it is just too overwhelming, then no child will grow up wanting to make Pesach at home or knowing how to do it. It is sad to think of generations and generations of unopened family heirlooms and charoset recipes that will never be made again.
I couldn't agree more.

But I don't agree with her conclusions on where to pin the blame:

Much of the responsibility for this new trend, it seems to me, has to fall on the shoulders of our rabbis and leadership. If our rabbinic leaders in the last decade had spent their time working out easier, halachically acceptable solutions for the myriad tasks involved in Passover instead of engaging in the one-upmanship in stringency that has characterized the development of Pesach preparation, we might find ourselves in a very different place.
I think the trend of going away for Pesach started way before the chumrah brigades took control and has more to do with the affluence of the Jewish community than anything else. Why work hard when you don't have to?

Nevertheless, the article is worth reading and thinking about.

Hat tip: Tootin' Jordan
A Very Sad Post

Da'as Hedyot, a former chareidi, has a very sad post about his inability to enjoy Pesach (or any of the chagim) for a variety of reasons. The main reason, he notes, is that he has no good memories of the yomim tovim when he was a kid. He went away for Pesach and Succos and, although not miserable, he was never particularly happy or comfortable. Throw in his issues with the entire chareidi lifestyle and the result is a man who has great difficulty enjoying the chag.

I am blessed in that my experiences growing up were almost exactly the opposite. We always stayed home and had the warmest, sweetest, most musical seders that one could hope for. My father, OBM (whose loss I feel especially strongly at this time, the first chag that he is not with us) never went for pilpulim at the seder. His seder was about 'varmkeit' and singing. And, as an added bonus, my mother (zzg) was a killer cook. How could I not love Pesach having grown up that way? I am forever indebted to my parents who provided us with such a wonderful environment.

MHW and I have tried to follow this path. With one exception, when we went away to family, we have been home for Pesach for almost 20 years. We have never gone away for Succos. I think (hope?) our kids are better off for that. We also try to make our seders as joyous and laid back as possible so that our kids, too, will have fond memories of the chag.

Finally, Da'as Hedyot's post also brings home the idea of how important it is to concentrate on your own kids, especially on Shabbos. So many people have company so often that their kids get short shrift (and the parents don't even realize it). This is a very big topic and I will discuss at length another day.

May Hashem bless Da'as Hedyot (and all of us) that we should enjoy the chag, enjoy our families, and appreciate our blessings. A frielichin Yom Tov.
Vasikin Rocks

A couple of guys at the Young Israel of Woodmere got together last year and decided to organize a vasikin minyan. At a vasikin minyan, everything is timed so that the kehilah begins the shemonah esrai just at the moment of sunrise.

I have always loved davening vasikin at the Kotel when I am in Israel because the quiet that overtakes all of the different minyanim at the same precise moment is something special.

Until last week, I never davened vasikin outside Jerusalem. On Rosh Chodesh Nissan, a Sunday a few weeks ago, I tried the minyan because it was the earliest minyan in town and would allow me to get on the road with my bike at the earliest possible time. (If not for the vasikin minyan, because I have to say kaddish, I would have no hope of being able to ride some of the century rides that I need to do this summer. Most of them start very early in the morning).

Well, it turns out that I loved the minyan because it was conducted at a slow, but not too slow, pace, and there was absolutely no talking.

I went back last Sunday and, as the only chiyuv, was actually able to lead the davening. This, too, was a strange experience. Everything is timed with a stopwatch so that you get to shemonah esrai exactly at the appointed time. The siddur is marked in numerous places to ensure that you are on time. Very cool.

Wanting to get an early start today, erev Erev Pesach, I davened there again and was able to lead the davening again. I realy love the minyan. It's a great addition to the community. If I didn't have a regular 6 a.m. shiur, I would daven there more often.

Vasikin rocks.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Pesach Rocks!

I'm really getting tired of all the whining about Pesach. Everyone knows it takes a lot of work, a llot of time, and a lot of money to clean, shop and cook for Pesach. Big deal.

As it is, things in Yiddishkeit have generally become so easy that our children hardly ever see their parents being moser nefesh. Pesach is a time for them to experience that (and to chip in when they get old enough).

As Dilbert recently said, we just have to stop complaining. We have to think about how lucky we are to spend Pesach with our loved ones and recognize that all of the work is well worth it.

I am so psyched for Pesach that I have shpilkis.

Pesach Rocks.

A freilichin yom tov to all.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

MoC's New Theory on the Election of the Pope

Much as I try, it's hard to believe that a 78 year old cardinal would be able to win 7 arm wrestling matches in two days against men much younger than he. So, it could be that I was wrong about that selection process.

But I think I've finally figured it out. I think the cardinals are using a "no hair - hair" rotation.

Pope Paul VI was bald. Pope John Paul I had a full head of hair. Pope John Paul II was bald. Pope Benedict HAS A FULL HEAD OF HAIR. Do you see a patern?
The Holiest Week of the Year II

And certainly not because the new pope just won the arm-wrestling contest.

My Rebbe refers to the week before Pesach as the holiest week of the year, as I discussed last year at this time. Not unlike RenReb, it is hard to convince MHW of this during the long days and nights cleaning, shopping and cooking. She takes this Pesach stuff (but not herself) very seriously and has read a certain pamphlet put out by a certain Rabbi too many times. Fortunately, my Rebbe is very practical and sensible when it comes to issues of cleaning for Pesach so his advice usually helps keep things on a relatively even keel.

It is also a blessing that this year the first Seder is preceded by Shabbos. MHW and all the other holy women who work so hard will be able to rest up for the Seder and will not be falling asleep in their chicken soup.
Three Shopping Days to Pesach....

....Have you bought your macaroons yet?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Mets: V'nehapoch Hu.

As Ben points out, the Mets are making for an interesting mediocre team.

After 13 games and a 6 - 7 record, it is also clear that management is clueless and doesn't understand the real game. The two players most frequently batting first and second for the Mets, Reyes and Matsui have the lowest on-base percentages (OBPs) of any regulars, .276 and .289, respectively. Between them, they have walked ONCE! The seventh and eighth batters in the lineup, Wright and Diaz, have OBPs of .313 and .432. Between them, they have walked 13 times.

The Mets have stolen 11 bases but have been caught stealing 5 times.

Hello out there. Wake up! Small ball doesn't work, especially when your bullpen stinks.

Monday, April 18, 2005

MoC Reveals The Real Story Behind The Choosing of the Pope UPDATED

Did you ever wonder why all the secrecy associated with the choosing of the Pope? This is my theory. There is no election. That is just a story put out by the Cardinals to make it sound democratic. In reality, what is going on is an arm-wrestling tournament among the 116 cardinals.

The first day is spent seeding the would be popes, 1 to 116. The tournament starts on the second day with 58 matches. After the first round, the cardinals are re-seeded and the second round begins with 29 matches. In the third round, the highest remaining seed gets a bye and 14 matches are played. The highest seed rejoins the fray in the fourth round, the Elite Eight. You can figure out the rest.

Can anyone prove this is NOT the way it happens?

UPDATE: Anony supports Moc's theory: Here

What do George W. Bush, Lance Armstrong and MoC have in common? Answer later today.
In Central Park....

....With frozen toes
Midos Tovos

Stillwonderin' sarcastically comments that the Shiny Shoe Drummer who wouldn't allow Chaim Dovid's drummer to move a cymbal was too busy learning to be bothered with stuff like midos tovos (loosely, good manners) or ahavas Yisrael (love of fellow Jews).

His comment hit home because of something that happened this past motsai Shabbos. My Rebbe gave his pre-Shabbos Hagadol drasha at our shul. In the past we hosted the drasha on Shabbos afternoon at a local gym in order to accommodate the crowd, often exceeding 800 people. For the past year, we haven't been able to get the use of the gym so we moved the drasha back to our building and scheduled it for motsai Shabbos. This way we can have 450 people in the main shul and pipe the drasha into the social hall and bais medrash through a live video feed where another 300 people can see the drasha.

Here's the issue. The drasha started at 10 p.m. By 9:20 many bachurim and young ladies started to arrive. By 9:45 there was hardly a seat left in the main shul. I would estimate that 65% or more of the seats were taken by non-members, mostly bachurim and post-seminary women. Many members could not get seats in the main shul and had to go downstairs to the social hall to see the video feed (which, BTW, was excellent).

Only one bachur asked me if it would be more appropriate for him to sit downstairs. One.

I don't equate this with the disgusting behavior of Shiny Shoe Drummer. The bachurim and young women were very excited about coming to the shiur and I try to dan l'kaf zechus (judge favorably) on this basis. Nevertheless, it seems to me that something is missing in their chinuch if they can be comfortable sitting in seats that would otherwise be occupied by older, paying members.
Taking Oneself Too Seriously

A lesson that I learned from my mom (zzg) from my youngest days was that one should never take himself too seriously. I have always tried hard to be faithful to that philosophy.

Over the years I have found that people who take themselves too seriously have no senses of humor and are often intolerable.

The reason I bring this up now is because of an incident that occurred last night. Chaim Dovid did a benefit concert together with a well-known shiny shoe musician. (These gigs are always weird because the SS musicians typically have an orchestra of 15 or more pieces backing them up and Chaim Dovid plays with one guitar player, a keyboard player and a drummer.) Invariably, for convenience sake, CD's drummer uses the drum set brought by the shiny shoe drummer.

Last night during the sound check, CD's drummer, Elyon Shemesh, tested out the drums. Elyon asked SS Drummer if he could move one of the cymbals from one side to the other (Elyon is a lefty and he plays in a quirky way). SS Drummer SAID NO!

Elyon assured SS Drummer that he would put the cymbal back when he was finished (a process that would take all of 30 seconds) but SS Drummer was adamant. As a result, Elyon had to adjust the way he played to accommodate the cymbal placement.

I suppose SS Drummer thinks he is G-d's gift to drumming and that chas v'shalom that he should have to tinker with his holy drums. I just think he needs to chill and stop taking himself so seriously.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

How Sad

My last post elicited a number of interesting comments. I asked whether people could name educators who had a lasting impact on their lives. I meant a positive impact. Most of the commentors had no such mentors. Many comments were about Jewish educators who had negative impacts (sometime incredibly negative and destructive impacts).

I am flattered that Yael Unterman, who wrote the essay that first brought this important question to my attention, took the time to comment on the post. She also offered to send the article to anyone who emails her. Her email address is in her comment (the 29th comment).

Yael Unterman's article should be required reading for anyone involved in Jewish education. It first appeared in a book called "Wisdom from All My Teachers: Challenges and Initiatives in Contemporary Torah Education", a compilation of essays on Jewish education (many of which are very important; some of which are gobbledygook) edited by Jeffrey Saks and Susan Handelman. Anyone who is serious about Jewish Education should read the entire book.

Friday, April 15, 2005


Can you name two teachers who made an important, lasting impact in your life. (You must answer immediately. If the names do not pop into your head instantly, chances are they did not make such an impact).

Yael Unterman asks this question in her indispenable essay, "'If You Seek Him With All Your Heart': Nurturing Total Individual Growth in Yeshivah".

My older son could name only his twelfth grade Rebbe but my older daughter was fortunate to have two such role models in high school. Sadly, neither I nor MHW could name even one.

So many opportunities are lost if a high school student does not have a close personal relationship with a dynamic rebbe or teacher.

The WQ at our shul was off the charts this morning. Unfortunately, I cannot reveal any more.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The CLE Scam

I just spent two days at a legal seminar relating to the very specific area of law that I've been practicing for the past 18 years. Since I already know about as much as anyone else about this area of the law, I learned virtually nothing during the two days (I'm not bragging: this industry is only 18 years old and I've literally been in it since its inception; if I didn't know as much as anyone it would be very sad, indeed). I did get a chance to meet up with many of my old colleagues in the industry so in that respect it was worthwhile.

It was also worthwhile because I was able to earn 15 of the 24 Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits that I need over a two year period in order to maintain my license in good standing.

The whole CLE gig is a big scam. Basically, it works like this. There is a cottage industry called the CLE industry. They administer the CLE system and provide many courses for hefty fees. They lobby the various state legislatures and bar associations to implement these CLE credit requirements. They probably contribute significantly to the re-election campaigns of the legislators. The legislatures keep boosting the number of credits required every license period.

Everyone knows it's a scam. Most people sleep through the courses, play video games on their phones (my high score in bowling: 215) or correspond with others on their Blackberries. Nevertheless, the system rolls on and the cottage industry continues to rake in the money.
No Problemo

In the middle of my two-day legal seminar I had to duck out to attend an all-hands meeting regarding Fosterboy. The meeting was 45 minutes away so I called a car service. The driver was a very charming Asian man who was obviously working hard on improving his English. When I gave him the instructions (take me to the meeting, wait for me, take me back), his response:

No problemo.

You gotta love this country.
Prodly Says It With Pictures

JMusic PSA

Kehilas Ishei Yisrael presents:


Our good friend, Chaim Dovid, will be returning to Ishei Yisrael for a Pre-Pesach concert THIS motsai Shabbas April 16 / Leil 8 Nissan in the YCQ multi-purpose room Chaim Dovid will be playing with a full band so the place should be rockin. Opening for Chaim Dovid will be a new and upcoming band, Omek Davar. This night is poised to be an unbelievable evening of music as we prepare for zman chairusainu.

Admission: $10 (students) / $15 at the door. Doors open at 9:45pm
A Typical Rider

Here's a picture that I randomly selected of one of the riders who is planning to participate in next year's Alyn Hospital Bike Ride in Israel.
What A Long Strange Trip It's Been

I was at a legal seminar the last two days. I'm now catching up on all that I missed while away. The days were pretty weird and I will post about them later today if I get a chance.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Enough Already With The Flutes

Very often when I either enter or leave Penn Station on the 34th Street side, there is a group of men in multi-colored ponchos playing weird looking flutes and other wind instruments. When I first heard them, many years ago, I thought it was an interesting, unique sound. I kinda liked it.


How many years do I have to listen to "Scarborough Fair" in flute? They're KILLING ME!
The Middle States Scam

I am a big proponent of internal reflection for individuals, companies and charitable institutions. I think engaging in cheshbon hanefesh serves a very important purpose for individuals and that organizations, both for-profit and not-for-profit, can gain and improve from periodic critical self-analysis. So why do I think Middle States accreditation is such a joke for Yeshivas?

A little background. Many years ago, the (former) general studies principal at a local MO yeshiva high school (let's call him "Headmaster"), decided to get his high school accredited by Middle States. His primary goal was to get as many kids into Ivy League schools as possible (without regard to whether this would jeapordize their Yiddishkeit, but that's a topic for another time). So, from his perspective, Middle States accreditation would be helpful because it would give the school a certain status.

Now, the (former) lower school principal (LSP) in this same institution was not to be out done. LSP and Headmaster had an intensely competitive relationship and LSP was not going to sit idly by while Headmaster got all the glory. So LSP went through the process and got Middle States accreditaion as well.

Now we all know that there was a rival school in the neighborhood that was vying for supremacy with the first school. It's board was not going to sit idly by and allow the first school to be the only MO yeshiva in the neighborhood to get Middle States accreditation. So it undertook the exercise of getting Middle States accreditation for itself, first in its more established lower school and then in its girls and boys high school.

I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with Middle States accreditation. I just think it's a waste of time and a diversion. Rather than undertaking real self-analysis and critical self evaluation, the schools bring in a secular outside organization that has little relevance to a Mordern Orthodox yeshiva in the twenty-first century and makes believe it's done critical self anaysis. Shkoiach!.

Middle States is all about PR. The schools would be better off taking their administrations, key lay people and advisors, locking them in a room for a few days, and instructing them to think about what's right and wrong about their schools and what could be done to improve them.

Friday, April 08, 2005


Lance Armstrong, after undergoing teshuva, is now squarely behind New York City's bid for the 2012 Olympics. He came to Central Park yesterday to make that clear and to ride around the park on behalf of some biking-related organization. So far, all good.

My beef with Lance is that he rode around the park without a helmet. This picture was run in at least two local newspapers (that I know of, probably many more). Thousands of kids are going to see the picture and the picture sends a bad message: It's OK to ride without a helmet.

I personally know of three people who were very seriously hurt because they had biking accidents and weren't wearing helmets. One is still in a coma and the other two required months if not years of rehab.

It's idiotic to ride a bike without a helmet, no matter how good a rider you are. I never so much as ride around the corner without mine and I'm a pretty decent rider. (An aside: So many people who do wear helmets have helmets that don't fit properly. All helmets should be fitted by someone who knows what he is doing).

Lance missed an opportunity.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Can Anyone Tell Me What This Means?

This is from a review in the New York Times regarding a restaurant in New York:

It is easy to see why Prune is so widely and fervently loved. It has mirth to spare, moxie to burn. It listens to its own muse and operates by a credo of whimsical indulgence.
MO High Schools: Some Thoughts.

One of the comments to this post, which itself was about a comment to another post, ostensibly about Jewish Scholastic Sports, veered, like many of the comments, to the issue of the effectiveness of the MO Yeshiva High Schools themselves.

"Anony" wrote:

Since the comments have veered off into the topic of MO yeshiva high schools, I'd like to comment on that. I think I have a pretty good perspective, having graduated from such a high school 4 years ago, followed by a year in Israel in a Yeshivat Hesder. I don't claim to have all the answers for the problems plaguing our High Schools, but I think a very important component that is missing from most of them is a solid background in hashkafa. I know in my high school, there was basically one Rebbe (who could easily be a Ra"m at any yeshiva) who would give genuine hashkafa in the form of weekly parsha shiurim (which were amazing), shiurim about moadim, and in general his tanach class. He also taught an elective in Jewish Philosophy. I could see the thirst in myself and in others who flocked to his shiurim and drank in every word of Torah he would say. It was a living Torah, distinct, unfortunately, from what we were getting in other classes. Two caveats:

1) This addresses only one specific problem which affects only a certain cross section of students. Nevertheless, I think it is a very important one, and I know many many students whose dedication for and love of Torah comes directly from their exposure to that teacher.

2) I realize it is a somewhat unique case in that the Rebbe I am referring to is unique, but the model can still be followed in other schools. Teach about the ideals of Judaism. Show the beauty of the Torah, and how it weaves together a beautiful web. Teach Jewish Philosophy in depth, and in warmth.

This won't solve all of our problems, but this is definitely something I have observed that needs to be taken care of, and that I think will have a huge impact, if done in the right way.

I don't have time right now to address these thoughtful comments in depth except to say that I agree that there is way too little by way of hashkafic thought (both in the high schools and, as importantly, in the lower schools). And let me be clear. I am not talking about Chassidic thought. While I think there is a role for Chassidic thought I believe that the students would be very well served by exposure to many different kinds of hashkafic thought. I agree that this is sorely needed.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Wrong on Wright

In an article in Sports Illustrated, Tom Verducci points out that over the course of a 162 game season, a leadoff batter is likely to get about 150 more at bats than the eighth place batter. David Wright hit .293 as a rookie last year with an OBP of about .321. With a year's experience under his belt, these numbers are likely to improve (as will his power numbers). By batting him eighth rather than, say second, the New Mets' manager Willie Randolph is depriving him of about 140 at bats which converts to almost 45 hits. Is the current second place hitter likely to be as productive?

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Medical Insurance

On Shabbos afternoon at the end of Seudah Shlishis my friends were making fun of me because I took off my glasses and stuck my nose in the bencher because that was the only way I could read the fine print. Whaddaya want, I'm 50!

The problem is, I already have bi-focals. They just don't work anymore.

Finally giving in to this new reality, I called my ophthalmologist and dutifully made an appointment. The assistant told me I needed a referral for insurance. So, I called my regular doctor to get a referral. His assistant told me I needed to come in because I had not been there for over a year. I explained that the reason I had not been to his office in over a year is that, thank G-d, I've been healthy. I just can't read anything anymore. She checks the insurance. No can do. No visit, no referral. Those are THE RULES.

So now I have to leave work early on Thursday to see a doctor I don't need to see so that I can see a doctor next Monday who I need to see in order to see. And, by the way, pay another co-payment. Something is wrong here.
J Scholastic Sports VI - Runaway Train

I received the following rant/comment to my recent post on our younger son's victory in his JV floor hockey championship game from "Simply Mo", someone who grew up out of town. The gist of my post was that (a) OYS's school appreciated the importance of scholastic sports, (b) OYS has a great coach from whom he has learned many wonderful things, and (c) OYS himself has not let his athletic ability and success get to his head.

The comment is so off the wall and wrongheaded that I thought it justified a separate responsive post.

First, the comment:

OK. Being an out of towner, I was always mystefied with the in-towners obsesion with this c**p: Let me get it straight, you make up some sport and play only against other religious kids, chas vashalom play solomon shechter, success is the measure of coolness, and some Neturei Karta guy coaches you? My problem with this stems from its clanishness. People in NY so take for granted the strength of the Jewish enviornment (sic) in which they raise their kids that they've constructed this fake league playing a fake sport in a completely insulated manufactured reality. Where I grew up, we played in a Catholic league- to my knowledge no one from Maimonides ever turned catholic or even scored with any catholic cheerleaders. A big part of my Jewish Consciousness stems from having pennies thrown at me at a game in Cape Cod and wearing a yamulke to play even before I was particularly religiously inclined, as I am now. There is much more value in my experience than that of my peers in yehsiva from both a social and athletic perpective. I'm amazed that there is little support for larger yehsivot to enter the state league, as my high school team did and play comprably SIZED schools rather than schools with identical ideology. To my knowledge, the Yeshiva league contributes to more delinquency than any exposure to catholics. I've been regaled many times with stories of drug use and sexual behavior (short of sex) surounding the "scene" created at these overhyped events in the five towns and jersey. Such a scene was completely absent at my games. You couldnt get a big crowd of Central girls to come out to Trinity Catholic that's for sure. My experience was about athletics, not faux heroics and inflated egos. I realize your son is a mensch and the games are conducted with greater midos than could be expected in any secular league, but that doesnt make the experience worth while. The league insulates youth in a way that fails to prepare them for the real world- that is unless you support you children learning in kollel mooching off the schver- in which case they have no need for real life skills and should go on playing floor hockey. Why do you think the first response in the five towns to my city of origin: "oh, out of towners are so nice." In truth, I may not be- but there is something to it. We lack the clanish tribal insulated obnoxious five towns and jersey jewish attitude which is reviled by out of towners, non-obervant jews and goyim alike. You should be ashamed for partaking.
My first response? Huh?

Now let me address some of the points:

1. I suspect that when SM played ball (presumably in the Boston area) the only option for the Maimonides school was to play in a Catholic league. When there are only a couple of other yeshiva high schools in the entire metropolitan area you can't form a yeshiva league. Is there any doubt that they would have prefered a yeshiva league had it been viable?

2. I fail to see the benefits of playing against Catholic high schools whose fans are throwing pennies at you. What exactly is the benefit? Is that really the way to develop a "Jewish Consciousness'? How about developing a Jewish consciousness by playing for a coach who is an erliche Yid? (I will not dignify the comment SO made about the coach being Neturai Karta with a response).

3. After the game, the same kids that were going after each other ferociously lined up and shook hands, and in some cases hugged one another. The kid from the other team who crunched OYS twice during the game is his very good friend from camp. Although this kid wanted to win in the worst way, he and OYS exchanged hugs and nice words right after the game. They will be at each other's homes for Shabbos in the near future. Are you going to do that with Catholic kids?

4. I don't know the evolution of what SM describes as the 'fake sport' of floor hockey. It came after my own time and I have always been curious how it became so popular. I suspect it became popular because it is a game that is relatively inexpensive for the schools and the summer camps to play. It became more popular than basketball in many schools because it is much more exciting than basketball, especially basketball the way it is now played.

5. SM fails to explain why playing sports against non-Jews has all the virtues and life's lessons that playing against fellow Jews does not. He is, simply, totally wrong.

6. While there is no denying that there is an element in the hockey world that indulges in the drug and drinking scene, guess what? There is an element in the yeshiva high school population at large that indulges in the drug and drinking scene. I would suggest that way more kids are 'saved' by their exposure to hockey than are lost because of hockey.

SM's comments about the insular-clannish-Five-Towns-and-New-Jersey-behavior-that-will-lead=to=kollels-and-shvers-of-which-I-should-be-ashamed-of-partaking are incoherent so I won't respond.
Cleaning For Pesach

Both Chief Rabbis of Israel are passing on the pope's funeral. They are apparently too busy cleaning for Pesach.
Great Moments in Sports Radio - II

Steven Phillips, former general manager of the Old Mets (as oppossed to the equally horrible 'New Mets') has been hired by ESPN Radio as a baseball analyst. His sole qualification seems to be that he can put a couple of English sentences together. His dismal record as a GM of the Mets (Billy Beane of the Oakland A's used to take particular pleasure in fleecing Phillips) certainly doesn't qualify him.
Great Moments in Sports Radio

On Saturday night, just after North Carolina beat Michigan State to get to the NCAA Basketball Championship game, John Thompson, former coach of Georgetown and now an radio analyst said about the upcoming North Carolina - Illinois game: "It's literally going to be a war out there."

I had been thinking of going to St. Louis for the game but reconsidered in light of Thompson's warning. Life is dangerous enough. I don't need to go to a place where bullets are flying all around.
Enough Already With The Pictures

Whatever you may think about the recently departed pope, can we all agree that it's enough already with the full page pictures of him lying in state, dead, that have been plastering every newspaper in town for the last few days. It's grossing me out. And, as a friend mentioned this morning, what's with the shoes?

Monday, April 04, 2005

J Scholastic Sports V: We Are The Champions!

Yesterday afternoon we had the pleasure of watching our younger son play in the Yeshiva league JV floor hockey championship game. Better yet, we had the pleasure of watching him win, 5 - 3. We are now 3 of 5 in family championship games, having witnessed our older son lose two heartbreaking varsity championship games, each by a single goal. Profound Statement: It is better to win than to lose.

The game reflected all that is good about scholastic sports. Fair, hard play; teamwork; discipline; good sportsmanship (even the parents behaved); and excitement (OYS's team scored the first two goals, the other team scored three in a row to go up 3-2, and OYS's team scored the last three goals, the final one icing the game with only two minutes to play).

A few thoughts:

The school:

OYS's school (starting, especially, with the Menahel) understands the importance that organized sports can play in a school on many levels. (Not the least of which is that there are many kids who make it through high school solely because of scholastic sports; later, with maturity, they develop into well rounded erliche Yiddin but sports keeps them anchored).

The Coach. OYS's coach is without a doubt his most important influence in the school. Is that good? Shouldn't it be a rebbe? It doesn't matter what should be, this is reality. B'H, OYS's coach is a wonderful role model. Besides being great at preparing the team and an excellent bench-coach, he is a mench. He understands the importance of sportsmanship, fairness and other good midos and imparts these values to the kids. Moreover, he loves the kids and relates to each one on his level. And, the kids return the love and, more importantly, they respect him immensely. (The school, to its credit, and the parents, understand how important this coach is).

OYS. He is really a superior player, the anchor of his team's defense and a real treat to watch. But he has never let his talent go to his head. He treats everyone with respect, from his coaches to his teammates, opponents and the referees. Because of the nature of his position he has been the target of an enormous amount of physical aggression this season (he got crunched again twice by his good friend from the other team and is sporting a nice welt this morning), and he has handled it calmly, never losing his cool. We are very proud of OYS.

These games are much more nerve-racking for the parents of players than for the players themselves. I don't know how much more of this we can take! I guess we will have to take two more years worth.
More Moneyball

Joe Schick (who briefly threatened to limit his posts to the New York Jets but has, I am happy to report, backed off), had two posts on the pathetic management of the Mets that inspired me to pick up one of my all time favorite books on baseball, "Moneyball: the Art of Winning An Unfair Game", by Michael Lewis.

As Joe points out, the Mets are making what seem to be astoundingly bad moves, both on and off the field, for example, batting David Wright, perhaps their best hitter, eighth, replacing two good-hitting back up catchers for a guy who is not hitting his weight, and trading a very viable 5th starter for a guy with an ERA almost 200 points higher.

One of the most interesting parts of Moneyball was when the author asked Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics, a team that, despite having one of the two lowest payrolls in all of baseball, consistently won more games than almost any other franchise (including those with payrolls four times that of the A's) why he was willing to go public with his methods. Beane responded that most of the GMs and managers of the other teams are dopes from the 'old boys club' and will not accept the new methododlogy, continuing to rely, instead, on old, tired, baseball 'lore'.

There appears to be no better example of this than the 'New Mets'.

Prediction: 81 - 81. At best.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Friday, April 01, 2005

PSA: Alyn Bike Ride Sign Up

(Blogger has been driving me crazy today. This is my third attempt to get this right).

Registration for the Wheels of Love Bike Tour in Israel starts on Sunday. The bike tour will take place from November 6th through 10th mainly in the north of Israel but ending with a climb to Jerusalem. If you like to ride your bike, are in good shape (or plan to be in November) and like seeing parts of Israel you've never seen before, this ride is unsurpassed.

(This is not a casual ride. If you want to know what to expect, read this blog). There are only 325 spots and they will surely go quickly.
Stealing III

Great column in today's by Daniel Henninger on the MGM v. Grokster case. Pretty much what I said, except he is articulate.
The Preciousness of Life

The amount of interest and attention focused by Americans on the Terri Schiavo situation is truly astounding. What is the essence of this interest? My Rebbe suggested this morning that perhaps it is some deep, inherent struggle to come to terms with the preciousness of life.

We live in a society that is defined by a culture of death. (See Andrew Napolitano's fabulous column in today's New York Sun; the on-line version requires a subscription). There have been 35 million legal abortions in the U.S. since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. Since the 1990 Supreme Court decision in Cruzan v. Missouri it has been the law of the land that anyone may refuse to take food, water and medical treatment. Mr. Napolitano does not blame the judges in this case; they were simply imterpreting laws that reflect this culture of death. In his view, the Schiavo situation is just the graduation of the culture of death to yet another level of destruction, where the power of the government is used to hasten death rather than prolong life.

So, perhaps Terri Schiavo's death was a time when people stepped out of our culture of death to think about the preciousness of life, something we so rarely do.

I have been giving this a lot of thought all morning, especially because tomorrow I reach a major milestone. Have I reflected much about the preciousness of 50 years of life? Do I understand the value of each day or do I just let the days fly by, wasted? Do I appreciate all of G-d's blessings? MHW, my kids (and now grandchild), the rest of my family, my friends?

The answer, of course, is no. I think my Rebbe was suggesting that we use the example set by Terri Schiavo's parents, who took extraordinary measures to prolong a life that many of us would conclude was not worth living, to reflect on whether we are appreciating ang using the days that G-d has given us.